Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sunday papers review

In the Observer, Nick Cohen, describing himself as "proud to be on the board of the National Secular Society" but "not a militant atheist", tries to make an argument for godless people being more benevolent, tolerant and law-abiding: only 0.2% of the US prison population, apparently, are atheists, although given that atheism is a position held almost entirely by intellectuals, that doesn't seem very significant. In its editorial on the koran-burning American pastor, the Observer calls on "all faiths" to "fight against the forces of bigotry" -- without once mentioning that the Vatican has specifically deplored the pastor's threats.  

The Sunday Telegraph reckons that the Pope will urge the Government "to protect religious freedoms to allow Christians to follow their beliefs" in his speech at Westminster Hall on Friday (see earlier post.). Inside, Ann Widdecombe backs this idea in an article praising Cardinal Newman: taking the example of the Catholic adoption agencies which were forced to close in 2007, she says "Newman was the first to recognise that the flip side of the coin stamped with the head of liberalism is intolerance and persecution". Mona Siddiqui, who is among those invited to receive Pope Benedict XVI at Holyrood House on Thursday, takes up the anti-secularist theme, criticising the "widely accepted and extolled narrative" that "democracies must be secular to flourish and that liberal states do not need religion to give them real moral purpose". It is nonsense, she says, to think that "religion does not matter and that people of faith need simply to tame their religious passions". Eamon Duffy also writes at length (see earlier post). In its editorial, the Sunday Telegraph thinks the papal visit "has the potential to become a showcase of the best in Christian life ... an example of devotion that can rekindle the spirit of faith and sacrifice in this country".  

The Sunday Times ignores the visit in its editorials, while allowing India Knight -- a regular Catholic-basher (it's to do with her childhood) -- to point out the contradictions of those who decry Pastor Terry Jones while "furiously calling for something terrible to be done to the Pope". While she doesn't hold much of a candle for religion, she says, "I'm fed up with people who don't know much sticking their oar in all the time, instant theologians to a man: hating religion doesn't make you an expert in it."

Meanwhile, the editor of The Tablet, Catherine Pepinster (photo), tells the newspaper she used to edit, The Independent on Sunday, that there's nothing strange about being both liberal and a Catholic.